InDesign CS review

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Despite Adobe’s decision to drop version numbers and call everything CS, the splash screen reveals what we all knew anyway: this is InDesign 3.0. Although first released in 2000 as an overt attempt to challenge QuarkXPress’ dominance, InDesign 1.0 and the rapidly updated 1.5 were barely up to the mark. InDesign 2.0, released at the beginning of last year, was a major improvement which soon started to pay off in sales. InDesign is an excellent layout program for single users and now, thanks to the Creative Studio’s Version Cue, small workgroups. It’s being adopted by the big newspaper systems integrators as a layout engine that sits inside a larger database-driven publishing environment. As with the other CS components, InDesign CS only runs on Mac OS X or Windows 2000/XP. Adobe claims that scrolling, file import, printing, and PDF export speeds are improved, which seems to be true, though that depends on your computer and printer. However, QuarkXPress 6.0 still uses less memory and runs faster – and InDesign’s text cursor placement always seems particularly clunky. As before, InDesign can open QuarkXPress 3 and 4 documents (but not 5 or 6) and convert them to InDesign with commendable accuracy. It does the same for PageMaker 6.5 and 7 documents. The user interface has been tweaked a bit, but not enough to worry users of previous versions. The main palettes slide away into the display edges to free up space when you don’t want them. There’s a hand grabber tool for quick scrolling. A new Control menu at the top, like Photoshop’s, displays the major options for the currently selected tool. You can save favourite combinations of palettes as a workspace. Text can be flowed into frames and edited in place as before, but a new Story Editor optionally opens it into a separate window with a word processor-like interface. It’s pretty basic, but it lets you apply paragraph styles, run spelling checks and perform search-&-replace or cut-&-paste, with live updates on the page. Probably its main benefit is the clarity of the display, which you can set to any font, size, and text or background colour – editing text over complex backgrounds in the main page can be difficult. Text can be exported to a separate file as InDesign tagged text, RTF, or ASCII. The Story Editor is only intended for single users. For large publishing environments, InDesign can work with Adobe’s separate InCopy collaborative text editor, with previews of line breaks and copy fitting, macros, live spelling checks, a table creator/editor, collaboration notes between users, and version tracking. The latest InCopy CS isn’t part of the Standard or Premium bundles, but InDesign CS includes optional plug-ins to work with InCopy. A new Document Styles option lets you save common sizes and settings and apply them when you create a new document. Master pages and styles can now be inherited automatically from other documents if you paste pages into a new document. Spreads update properly if you delete or re-order pages. Another Styles innovation is Nested Styles, which lets you turn one or more character style into a paragraph style. This would work for drop caps, in-line heads, or specific text in table entries where you want to use different colours, fonts, or sizes. Tables were good in InDesign 2.0, and CS adds the ability to link multiple table frames (across different pages, say), and to automatically apply one row as a running header or footer. Illustrator’s Pathfinder menu has been built into InDesign CS, allowing you to join shapes and frames to create complex composite items. There’s a new Stroke styles menu, with a greater choice of decorative or multiple rules, dashes and dots, plus a new ability to create or edit your own. An Info palette provides dimensional data for all objects and a useful live word count for text selections. Prints charming InDesign is mainly intended for output to professional printing. The print menu is generally improved. It contains page set-up, marks and bleeds (now with a separately controlled slug area for printer’s instructions), graphics handling, colour management, OPI, and transparency flattening. InDesign now understands native graphics files from Photoshop (PSD) or Illustrator (AI) to a high degree. Importing a Photoshop PSD or TIFF file with additional spot colour channels adds these automatically to the InDesign palette, for instance. Any native Photoshop file from 4.0 on can be imported, and any alpha channels, masks, or paths can be used as cutout guides, though the layers are flattened and can’t be transferred to InDesign layers. Illustrator blends can be edited in InDesign. A useful print presets menu lets you create named sets of all the print conditions for each local or off-site printer. The pre-flight tool looks for the most common problems and displays a printable report. It then takes you straight to the package menu. Here, you can fill in an instruction form for printers and save a copy of the document, plus fonts and any linked files, into a new folder, ready for delivery to the printer. Two other new output preview menus (grouped in the same palette) let you visually check the document for possible problems on output. The transparency flattener preview shows how any transparent areas in the file will look after they’ve been processed by the flattener control in the print menu. You can highlight different types of text or graphic object, and select how the file will be flattened. New named pre-sets can be created (high, medium or low resolution are defaults), then applied to the file. Flattening isn’t necessary with PDF 1.4 or 1.5 going to the very latest PostScript Rips, so check with your printer. The separations preview lets you view each CMYK or spot colour in isolation, or together with any other colours, providing a progressive view. You can see how overprints and the important black channel will work. The Separations palette provides an ink limits preview, which can highlight areas with more than a given weight of ink that you choose from a pull-down. The colour swatches palette now allows you to create new tints from combinations of process and spot colours. QuarkXPress can do this too. PDF output is increasingly important both for internal distribution and archiving, and as professional printers gear up to using them for final output. InDesign CS has an expanded PDF export menu. InDesign CS can output the latest Acrobat 6.0 PDF 1.5 format (which preserves transparency and selectable layers), and it includes presets for PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3. These ISO formats are subsets of PDF 1.3, intended specifically for production on professional printing presses, and the specification and validation process excludes any unprintable items. Publishing power On the multimedia side, you can set up bookmarks, interactive buttons, and movie, sound, and Macromedia Flash files from InDesign CS and embed them in your PDFs. Any frame can become a rollover button, which can be exported to PDF or to GoLive. Professional publishers are showing an interest in the ability to preserve InDesign CS layers within PDF 1.5. This means that a single PDF can contain, for instance, all the European language versions of an advertisement or book, or all the local editions of a regional newspaper. InDesign CS allows you to suppress text wraps on multiple layers (so one version doesn’t interfere with others). Acrobat 6.0 has a layers control to display all visible layers in the PDF and switch off the ones you don’t want to print. It has separation and flattening previews. The new PDF 1.5 format introduced with Acrobat 6.0 can preserve multiple layers from InDesign CS. These can be selected by the reader and switched on or off as needed when viewing or printing. One likely application for this would be a document with different text content for different markets, such as English, French and German versions, but it could be different local addresses for something like a DIY store ad to appear in different regional editions of a newspaper. Acrobat 6.0 can incorporate CAD files in layers, which could be used in a packaging job to include the cutting die instructions as a separate layer to the main design layer. InDesign 2.0 and QuarkXPress 5 and 6 attempted to generate Web pages internally. They haven’t been terribly good at it, and Web-design professionals have largely shunned them in favour of dedicated Web-authoring suites. However, the idea of automatically re-purposing print documents into Web pages remains attractive to magazine and newspaper publishers. For InDesign CS, Adobe has cut the compromises and transferred all responsibility for Web-page authoring to GoLive CS, part of the CS Premium bundle. Therefore, if you want to convert an InDesign document for the Web, there’s a new Export For GoLive command. It gathers all the content and writes it into a folder package. Stories are exported as InCopy CS stories, images are converted to Web-ready GIF or JPEG images, and it creates XML files, a table of contents, and a special viewer PDF. When you open the package in GoLive CS, it previews the pages as you laid them out and handles image conversions using its Smart Objects technology (with image cropping and smart re-rendering if you re-size images). GoLive CS generates a cascading style sheet (CSS) from InDesign text styles, or maps InDesign styles to a CSS on your site. This allows dynamic updating. If you change the original InDesign document, you can re-export the GoLive package and the Web conversion process will update the Web site. InDesign CS has improved internal XML features, with new support for DTDs (Document Type Definitions). These let you validate structured templates into which you can flow XML files, and tag and verify content for re-use. XML tags can easily be mapped to character or paragraph styles (including nested styles). As with the other CS components, InDesign uses XMP metadata to work with the excellent Version Cue 1.0 server for tracking versions within a single master file and sharing them across a network. Considered in isolation, InDesign CS is a worthy update but not as big a step forward as 2.0 was. Nevertheless, when you consider it as part of the complete Creative Suite, and especially with the fabulous workflow and collaborative possibilities of Version Cue, InDesign CS must be approaching the status of irresistible.

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